Seafloor map of the Indian Ocean showing the Ninetyeast Ridge, a 5000 km chain of volcanic seamounts extending south of Thailand down towards Australia. The Ninetyeast Ridge is one of the world’s largest geological features and is essentially a giant, underwater mountain chain. Despite its impressive scale, relatively little is known about the ridge as study of the ridge is expensive and difficult because of its remote location. Most likely, the ridge represents a long-lived hostpot track associated with the Kerguelen hotspot currently located at Heard Island near Antarctica.
I can hardly believe that in a month and a half I will be leaving for my summer research cruise to the Ninetyeast Ridge in the Indian Ocean. I’ll be at sea for fifty-six days and will be away from Boston for a month and two weeks.
All my life, I have wanted to go on this sort of adventure. I grew up reading National Geographic and dreaming of how I might become involved in the sort of expeditions described in words and stunning photographs on the glossy pages of the magazine. Early on, I thought I’d become a writer or a photographer so I could work for National Geographic. Later on, I decided science was the way to go. There are millions of aspiring writers and photographers, and most of them fail. Science is tougher but allows me to explore the universe in ways I find interesting and also has higher chances of rewarding me with opportunities to travel and go on expeditions, at least in my field of geology. Differential equations, thermodynamics, and other tough science courses tend to thin the competition somewhat.
Now, after some hard work as an undergrad and first-year grad student, I am going on an expedition of my own as a volcanologist! After months of wrestling with travel schedules and waiting to see if the violence in Sri Lanka intensified or died down, I finally have my travel schedule in hand:
June 14th: Fly from Boston to Phuket, Thailand via New York and Bangkok
June 15th-20th: Sit on the beach in Phuket, locate the R/V Roger Revelle (not an easy task in a foreign port!), and organize our equipment for the cruise
June 20th-August 14th: Travel along the entire 5000 km lenght of the ridge and back again, studying the volcanic seamounts. My job as a petrologist will be to help with the rock dredging and to organize the ~10,000 lbs. of volcanic rocks. Since the volcanoes we’re studying have been sitting inactive on the seafloor for 40 to 80 million years, the rocks will likely be heavily altered and challenging to identify and catalog. I think I’m up to the task, though! In addition to the petrology team, there is a geophysics team going on the cruise to collect detailed multibeam bathymetery, gravity, and magnetic data.
August 14th-16th: Arrive in port in Male, Maldives (a chain of islands south of Sri Lanka) and pack up all of our supplies and samples and ship them home.
August 16th-20th: Fly to Dubai City, Emirates via Colombo, Sri Lanka (Tamil Tigers, please don’t bomb the airport during my layover!). Take a well-deserved vacation in a nice hotel with my best friend, who is currently living in the Middle East.
August 20th-26th: Continued vacation at my friend’s home in Kuwait City. I realize that I am crazy to visit Kuwait in August when the weather will be very warm, but I’ve always wanted to visit Kuwait and stopping here on my way back to Boston is very cheap.
August 26th-27th: Fly home to Boston via London.
August 27th-September 1st: Sleep, primarily. Also clean my apartment, buy textbooks for the fall semester, and gloat over my frequent flyer miles, I imagine. But mostly sleep.
In the coming weeks, I’ll post more information about the Ninetyeast Ridge, the scientific goals of the cruise, and my plans for studying the volcanic rocks from this region. Additionally, while I am on my cruise I plan on posting regular updates. My internet access will be from satellites and may be spotty at times, but I plan on writing as often as possible!